Emburse study finds that over half of Aussies prefer hybrid work schedules

Australians are eager to see their workmates, but not for the whole week, according to a survey by Emburse, a global player in spend management solutions. The research aimed to better understand what office-based employees want most in the post-pandemic workplace.

Just 29% wanted to stay on a fully-remote schedule, although only 17% would like to return to the office full time. What would encourage them to do it? Getting a three-day weekend, and lunch on the company topped the list. Almost 65% said that they’d be happy to work in-office on a Wednesday, which was more than double the 31% willing to come in on Fridays.

Survey respondents were office-based before COVID, and the data revealed a shift in their preferences. The divide was split even further by age group. While the overall majority of those surveyed prefer a hybrid working schedule, given the choice, it was most desired by the youngest workers – those aged 18-34 (62%). Remote work was the top choice among 35-54-year-olds (33%), while those aged 55-64 favored being in the office full time (31%).

What were the key insights of Emburse’s study?

Choice still limited

Just 39% of employers give their employees a choice of remote, hybrid or in-office.

  • 35% are required to be in the office every day
  • 7% have been transitioned to fully-remote
  • Just 11% have made the choice to work at home every day

The new 9-5

Office workers prefer hybrid schedules, but also want a say in the matter.

  • If given the choice, 55% of respondents would prefer a hybrid work schedule, while 29% opted for remote. Only 17% of workers want to be in the office full time.
  • More women than men would prefer to be in the office, with 56% of female respondents choosing hybrid work compared to men (51%).
  • Nearly 40% would consider looking for a new role if not given the choice between being in the office full-time, remote or hybrid.

Best incentives to lure workers back to the office full time

When asked to rank, in order of preference, the most attractive incentives to working in the office full-time, respondents were united in their top and bottom choices.

  • The best incentive for returning to the office full-time was a four-day workweek (33%)
    • Highly popular among all age groups, Gen X (ages 45-54) was the biggest champion of the four-day workweek, with 47% voting it as their top choice.
  • Free lunch in the office workplace and a fully-paid commute tied for second (17% each).
    • Gen Z (18-24-year-olds) voted for free lunch as their top choice (22%).
    • Paid commute was most favored by 55-64-year-olds (28%).
  • By far, the least desired incentive was paid childcare – voted last by 43% of respondents.
    • Though it overwhelmingly was voted at the bottom for incentives, paid childcare was least preferred by workers aged 45-64 (68%).
  • Other incentive options to lure employees back to the office included more paid holidays (11%) and the ability to submit lunch expenses for reimbursement (6%).

In comparison to a recent YouGov research survey from Emburse showed that over two-thirds of British office workers surveyed would opt for a fully-paid commute.

Preferred day to be in the office

Like their British colleagues, Australian workers said they were more likely to come into the office mid-week, preferably on Wednesdays. Here is how respondents voted; Monday (38%), Tuesday (59%), Wednesday (65%), Thursday (54%), Friday (31%), None (12%).

Top reasons to come into work

Survey respondents selected activities that would make them likely to come into the office.

  • Team meetings pulled ahead as the top reason to come into the office (62%).
  • Close behind were client meetings (49%) and brainstorming or creative meetings (48%).

Concerns in the new world of work

Proximity bias was a concern for career development, and IT issues are top of mind for all.

  • 41% percent of those surveyed said they would worry that their boss might overlook their career development if they weren’t in the office.
  • For their top concerns about working remotely and in the office, IT issues ranked number one for both (38% and 29%, respectively).

A panel of 403 Australians, who were office-based before COVID, were asked questions about their preferences for returning to the office and the future of work.

What were Emburse’s thoughts on the study?

Sarah Dart, Senior Director at Emburse, said, “Like much of what we’re seeing through the Great Reshuffle, workers of today are wanting more freedom and flexibility in their lives.”

“Firms must aim to meet these needs by humanising work and becoming more employee-centric. Offering the ability for workers to have the human connection that they missed during the pandemic while working collaboratively is good for them and the business. We’ve seen from data that in-person interactions are far more productive than audio or video meetings, so achieving this within a hybrid or four-day workweek is a win for everyone.”

“With fewer days in the office, much more attention should be paid to efficiency and ensuring simple tasks can be done quicker. Look to automation and solutions that can help speed up processes for tasks like accounts payables and reimbursements, so employees can spend their time in the office focused on the tasks at hand and what matters most,” she concluded.